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Wednesday, June 13, 2007
"Father God"
I subscribe to Internet Q & A's by John Shelby Spong. I know to some, he is a controversial figure, but I liked the question and his answer in this weeks topic. I just thought I would share. I know we have discussed this before, but was curious if anyone's postion has evolved even more than before?

Donna Percy from the Internet, writes:

"The idea of calling God "He" bothers me. Although I had a loving father, in my 28 years of teaching I have come in contact with many who were abusive. One year, a grandmother came in for a parent conference and revealed that her granddaughter's father, under the guise of saying goodnight prayers with his daughter, sexually abused her for years. I wonder how this girl will be able to receive God's message when she continually hears God referred to as "He"? Even the hymns are filled with references to "Him." Fortunately, our current pastors use "God" — not the pronoun — and few in the church have noticed. I write on behalf of all the girls of this world who, like my beloved student, have been hurt deeply by their fathers."

Dear Donna,
I share your concern but we have to overcome perhaps 10,000 years of training in the maleness of God. An enormous start on this consciousness raising activity has been achieved, but to erase the influence of the ages will literally take ages. Liturgies change, but ever so slowly, and most of them even now are rooted in the 13th century. The gospels reflect the patriarchal prejudice of the first century Jewish world in which they were created. Even the Ten Commandments assume that women are the property of men (thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his ox).
Polygamy is present in the Bible because women were defined as property hence the richer the man was, the more wives he could possess, as well as more sheep and cattle. My guess is that it will take another 100-200 years to remove the prejudice and stain of patriarchy from our patterns of worship. That is not said to be discouraging since that is very rapid in terms of how long sexism has been around. The fact remains that for those who are victimized by this prejudice, every day is one day too long.
This concern only dawned on me well into my adult life. I recall that when I wrote in 1973 and published in 1974 my second book, "This Hebrew Lord," I was unknowingly still completely insensitive to male-oriented, non-inclusive language. That was also no problem for my publisher, Harper Collins. Even their style sheet was not sensitive to the need for inclusive language. When HarperCollins asked me to revise this book for a new edition in 1986, both of us were in a new place. I made approximately 3500 changes in the text of this 180 page book, 90% of which were to remove sexist language, like the references to God that referred to God as "father, he, him or his." A wonderful early feminist woman in my congregation in Richmond, Virginia, named Holt Carlton, had begun very lovingly, but very persistently to raise my awareness to my closed-minded, unconscious, sexist prejudices. I was amazed that in the space of 12 years things about which I had no sensitivity at all had actually become offensive to me. All of us are caught up in this change whether we recognize it or not. The rate of change accelerates every year as the flow of information becomes almost instantaneous, but for sexism to be completely removed will still take three or four more generations. One reason for the slow pace is that both fundamentalist Protestant churches and Roman Catholic churches spend enormous energy opposing these changes. Those efforts will fail, but they do keep us from moving as rapidly as we might otherwise move. It is also one more sign of both the irrelevance and even the death of institutional religion, which always seems to be on the wrong side of history.
I do not urge you to be patient. I urge you, rather, to be loud in your complaints until the consciousness of all people becomes aware of the power of language.
God is not a father or a mother. Patriarchy has defined God for thousands of years, but patriarchy is now dying.
Thanks are due to people like you for being part of its death.
-- John Shelby Spong

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40 Comments:


  • At 6/14/2007 03:08:00 AM, Blogger marilyn

    Gee, I wonder if Jesus was aware how sexist he was; I'm sure he meant to say "Our Mother, which art in heaven..." and he was probably just confused and intended to say "Mother forgive them for they know not what they do." It's really unfortunate that he wasn't more gender inclusive--his ministry would have been so much more effective. I guess God just wasn't aware of how vitally important 'gender equality' would become, and how offended people would be at the patriarchal language in his word. It's such a shame.

     
  • At 6/14/2007 04:02:00 AM, Blogger Miz Melly

    Marilyn, is there really a need for sarcasm here? I think you are completely missing the point of Donna's post.

    I think the point of Jesus calling God 'Father' was to indicate the intimate parent/child relationship that could now exist. As God is neither male nor female, I don't think the word we use is important so much as the relationship.

    I also think Jesus made very clear in the radical way he treated women that 'gender equality' was of importance. He had plenty of opportunity to adhere to the status quo (stoning a sinful woman, not speaking to a Samaritan woman at a well) and he did the opposite.

    Donna,thanks for your post. I have been exploring recently the whole 'Mother' side of God. I think at the moment, having just lost my own mother, it's too confusing to go too deep into. But I think it is really important to raise awareness of this issue, particularly for women who's own father's have been negligent or abusive.

    Miz Melly

     
  • At 6/14/2007 07:18:00 AM, Blogger Miz Melly

    Sorry Michelle - misread the post. I meant to say thank you to you for posting Donna's letter and the response!

     
  • At 6/14/2007 09:10:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    I agree Miz Melly, the relationship is more important that the words we use. I would say I struggled in relationships with both of my parents. "Father" never felt comfortable for me, and right now, "mother" really isn't either (only because I am not speaking with my mother,she is abusive). I, like John Shelby Spong stated, use "God". I view God completely out of the "human" descriptions. God is beyond comprehension, and feel that so many of those descriptors are limiting. Are parents are not perfect, and neither are we as parents. It is too easy, I feel, to subconciously have those relationships affect the relationship with God.

    I believe Jesus spoke the language that would be understood and acceptable. He used language that would best connect with the people of that period of time with God. God is not a "he".

    Marilyn, unfortunately I don't feel like engaging like the last round. I have to say the tone, again, changes a dialog. I hate to admit it, but I saw your name and skimmed...I knew what was coming. Maybe I am not "emerging enough" but I would rather dialog with those who want to dialog.

     
  • At 6/14/2007 10:44:00 AM, Anonymous Matt Stone

    I agree that patriachalism is problematic, but unfortunately I also have to say the same for John Shelby Spong. Given his public denunciations of not only patriarchalism, but also personal and relational views of God is general, I must taken anything he says on the topic of 'God' with a great deal of caution. True, even Balaam of the Old Testament managed to be prophetic on the odd occasion, but he was never called a Prophet. There are other commentators, far closer to orthodoxy, challenging patriarchy. At least they can quote the authority of the Bible with a straight face in support of their arguments.

     
  • At 6/14/2007 10:59:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    Hi all,
    Marilyn, I think Jesus WAS gender inclusive in his ministry, as others have noted. I agree with others that the terminology used by Jesus most likely reflected the culture of the day; however, I hold to the notion that there is meaning beyond that, for certainly, as you say - God would have been aware of how gender would play out down the ages. Its very interesting to me that so many people who view Jesus as being a rebel and revolutionary and subversive seem to accept the argument that Jesus needed to 'play nice' in the context of cultural norms and use male terminology. I don't have the answers but believe the term is significant. As with the gender conversation that took place not long ago, I believe that there is something about the genders and roles that remains a mystery to us.

    I fully agree that God is genderless and I don't mind people using whatever term they are comfortable with....but I have trouble with some of Spong's statements such as:
    "Even the Ten Commandments assume that women are the property of men"

    I think thats a leap. "coveting" encompasses more than 'property' but rather reflects things one has 'no right to'; It could simply refer to the fact that one has no 'right' to another's wife by means of relationship not possession.

    Polygamy is present BECAUSE women were defined as possession. No, polygamy was present due to sin.

    Many of these conversations seem to be so female gender driven though and that bothers me somewhat - the conversations all seem to stem from the position of women who can't relate to God as 'father' becaue they were abused or didn't have a good relationship...what about men who were abused?

    And....
    It seems very often when the pendulum begins to swing on an issue within the church it carries a momentum that takes it from one extreme completely into the next.


    Is it really a gender thing at all and more just a sense of 'us' focusing on 'us'....

    Are we (all genders, races, etc) always going to push up against the status quo...? And if so, where does that take us? Into a nameless, faceless, genderless, ethnicless....nothingness? Maybe GOd is all of that and none of that, but for the purposes of humankind, He did take on form, of HE, with skin that looked however it looked...but I doubt any of 'us' will ever be happy with whatever form He took because its not 'me'.

    I've never had a relationship with a genderless spirit being (well, yea I have, but not on earth so to speak) so should I revolt against a genderless name for God? At some point there is acceptance of what simply 'is' whether our finite minds can 'relate to it' or not.

    So while I agree that God is spirit and not gender.....and maybe churches should avoid any gender specific verbage regarding their own thoughts, there is no need to rewrite scripture or chagne what Jesus actually said or did. In my opinion. lol

    We just need to understand the context, as with all things in historical writings....and teach more fully the nature of GOd/spirit.

    and Michele, those are my very disjointed thoughts at this time in my life ont his subject. :-)

    (and Marilyn, I will get back to that other convo later - I did get your reply - I have GOT to get some work done now!)

     
  • At 6/14/2007 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    The whole idea on embracing inclusive gender conceptions of God has been a huge part of my spiritual journey over the last few years. It is something I think about often and do my best to push people on. Right now, my issue is comfort. A lot of people cling to male idols of God because that is what they are comfortable with. But is comfort really the point when it comes to God? Is perpetuating a limited image of God so one can be comfortable a good enough excuse to avoid a conversation or help other's grow in their theology? questions I'm asking and that we are asking as a church...

    As for Spong. I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but I don't dismiss him out of hand. I do have to challenge the conceptions of polygamy presented here. I don't see polygamy as necessarily a sin or as mere possession of women. It is a result of patriarchy. In a culture where women were not allowed to work, own property, or go out in public alone - polygamy was a system that protected women by allowing them to be taken care of by someone with enough resources to do so. If the evils of patriarchy (oppression of women) were not present, then a system like polygamy would not be needed (it becomes solely about a man's selfish needs and not about protection of women)

     
  • At 6/14/2007 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Janice,

    I am not sure if you are bothered by the abuse connection by women here, or just in general about this topic in particular. I would be very interested to hear what a man who was abused would feel about this subject. I think for many, their is no denying the position women have had for many thousands of years. I think in general, that type of oppression, makes many more sensitive to the language. That is not saying that an abused male wouldn't have his own take, but I personally have never experienced that discussion.

    As a general response...I am not saying that if a person uses "Father" that they are wrong. I believe that God, can and has been limited by the language of the Bible.

    This can get into a very different topic and I am in the minority I am sure...however, this again can come down to a person's view of what the Bible IS. Which is not a debate I intend to have.

    Just to put out there, not every believing person is necessarily settled on the "deity" of Jesus. Some including myself are working through that...my personal thing. As for "JESUS said it" so that is what it should be...other's again, myself included, are open to seeing Gospel accounts as interpretive. A couple main reasons are the fact that the Gospel's were not written by Jesus, and were written decades after his death. Another, the fact that even Gospel accounts can differ in many ways. As a friend of mine once said "If God wrote the Bible, why repeat 'Himself'?" Good question I thought, (especially when there are clear differences in some accounts.)

    I agree with Julie, many see this as a discussion to change it to fit "our" needs and comforts. And yet, that is the main reason people aren't comfortable with entertaining this topic.

    I just don't believe God would be fiercely upset with pronouns. Those are human made, human connection, again I think we relate to God as if God reacts like a human. I just think these are little battles that are probably not as big of a deal as they tend to be. I am fine with whatever pronouns or lack thereof, a person uses to connect with God. Just my opinion though.

     
  • At 6/14/2007 03:22:00 PM, Blogger Janice

    Michele,

    Yes, indeed, people have different views of the bible. I believe it to be the inspired word of God, penned by men, with a message for all of humanity. It bothers me not at all that Jesus was recorded as saying "father" and I don't find any reason to believe that the writers of scripture superimposed their cultural gender specific nuance onto it.

    I also don't see the language of the bible as limiting GOd but rather the handling of it (the bible) by humankind.

    Its very interesting how people come at things.

    I too am fine with whatever one wants to call God in their own conversations, thoughts, prayers, etc. it doesn't matter to me at all, I think however we are missing something perhaps by not valuing the idea that God may have a purpose in the way it was put forth in scripture, whether or not we 'like' it.

    I also agree with Julie - is our comfort really the point? (it seems that argument plays both ways, lol)

     
  • At 6/14/2007 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    For the record I am still very very uncomfortable using feminine names for God. It is my realization that truth matter more than comfort that has forced me to start using all the names, metaphors, and pronouns for God that the Bible uses. Of course Jesus calls God Father. There is nothing wrong with using that metaphor for God. The issues arise when that become our sole name for God. Then we have created an idol out of a concept that we worship in place of God. Idolatry is hard to avoid, but being pushed out of our comfort zones and starting to use the multitude of names for God can help us not get focused on just one. This is not about what is trendy or what feels good, but about naming God rightly and avoiding sin.

     
  • At 6/14/2007 05:49:00 PM, Blogger Daily new!!!

    I like the the themes you write about on your blog and would like to exchange links with you!
    If you are interested you can visit our directory here:
    Christian Resource Directory
    It would be great to add your Blog to our directory!
    In His name,
    Markus

     
  • At 6/14/2007 06:27:00 PM, Blogger marilyn

    Settle down ladies, the sarcasm I used wasn't directed at anyone in particular; It was merely an amusing way (for me) to expose how silly and redundant some of these issues really are. We can so easily get caught up in things that don't matter, or create problems in places where there weren't any to start with, and sometimes a jolt of humour can shed a little reality on our cultural obsessiveness.

    Michele, I'm not the least bit offended by your personal rejection of me--thanks for being clear on that.

    Janice--do I hear the voice of reason here? and yes, I'd like to dialog some more about the other matter.

    I'm painfully aware of the impact of sexual abuse, and the difficulty it brings to any relationship, but denial of our basic human need--as men or women--for a father is no way to cope with the residual damage. Kids who grow up without a father or have been abused by a father are far more likely to use drugs, be promiscuous, engage in other risky behavior and have difficulty maintaining stable relationships. It would seem to be counterproductive to deny a connection with the perfect heavenly father simply because of the actions or absence of our earthly father--in essence, a rejection of wholeness.

    God calls himself 'Father,' Jesus called him 'Father,' and he told us to pray to the 'Father;' since we cannot fathom the 'depth and breadth and width' of the divine, and since he has presented himself to us as 'Father,' who are we to suggest an alternate representation?

     
  • At 6/14/2007 06:57:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I have made an effort in my talks with my daughter about God to use a variety of biblical metaphors and pronouns, including feminine ones. Yet when I refer to God as "she," my daughter consistently says in her "duh mom," patronizing five-year-old voice, "God's not a girl. God's a boy." I reiterate that God is not a boy or a girl AND God is the best things about boys and girls all at once. My daughter says, "Well that's not what they say at Sojourn (our church.)

    Out of the mouth of babes.

     
  • At 6/14/2007 07:00:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Ummmm....wasn't God actually Jesus' father?

    It seems we all agree here that God is bigger than any labels we can use to name God with.

    Probably the most interesting point is how difficult it is to think of God in terms of feminine pronouns when you first get started. I doubt God cares one way or the other. But it does seem to sigificantly impact as wee human beings.

     
  • At 6/14/2007 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Marilyn,
    Sorry if I am misreading you, but that sure didn't seem like a "lighten it up" comment.

    Jemila,
    I agree with your take. It's really hard, especially if you have been raised your whole life in a church environment full of patriarchy. It becomes second nature.

    There are many who struggle in their relationships with God because of lack of empathy from others. I have watched many walk away from churches and even God, sometimes, because of the rigidity of this topic (of course tied with other problems). I personally sympathize with those that have been sexually abused by "people of God", especially in a Catholic setting. I can only imagine what they must feel calling God "father" when that same title applied to those who horribly victimized them.

    My call would be, we just need to be sensitive to others in these areas. If they struggle with "Father" and need to embrace another pronoun, it should be understood, and not talked down to. I honestly think many don't even think about the fact that they have other options, because it has been so consuming in churches. Most people I have encountered, say they "know God is not a man" and yet would fight to the death to keep those masculine pronouns. Why? Because many times the angry, punishing God has been connected to those situations. Blasphemy is a concept you don't want to mess with! I think people are afraid to even question it out of fear. Again, maybe a misused concept.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 09:21:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Marilyn - I am still confused as to what you want from us. You bring on the sarcasm and ridicule pretty heavy and then get offended if anyone takes offense. You claim to see the voice of reason in people who already agree with you. And once again you are here to tell us that our conversations are worthless. You obviously are entitled to those opinions, but its going to be hard to form relationships that way.

    And this is an issue of vital importance. It is a sin issue. It is an issue about getting back to the Bible and church tradition. it is not us suggesting alternatives to "father", it is about actually reading the bible and using all the names it uses. It is about overthrowing the smallminded patriarchy that has hijacked the faith and has given us an idol in the form of a penis to worship instead of the true God. If you don't "get" the conversation, I suggest you learn and explore instead of employing just knee-jerk reactions.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 12:41:00 PM, Blogger Janice

    Julie,
    is that all a father is to you - a penis? For someone I had thought strives to get past sterotypical gender thoughts and do more than simply reduce women (and men?) to their genitals - you just did that. Whether or not that was your intent. Perhaps you see a reduction of God to a penis, but oh hell - never mind the rest of that thought. just never mind.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 02:04:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Janice,

    I do think it is a reduction to body parts. Those that fight for the masculine pronouns, are really fighting against the feminine, reduction of the father "figure" etc. If we embrace the "being" of God as beyond masculine, there isn't much that can't apply to some females etc. beyond the sex organ.

    I would be curious what aspects of a "father" that you think makes keeping God in that description important? Or, I guess, what aspects do you think that hold, without the ties to patriarchy? Beliefs have been held that "father" is the supporter, the "head of the house", the protector, etc. There is a lot of descriptors that have been tied to and are very related to the patriarchal systems.

    I really am curious how you get around the associations. I know that there are other descriptions, but all of them can apply to females somewhere, some how. So in my opinion the only difference can be reduced to the penis...but not to say that is what God is reduced to, just our reasons to hold to our descriptions...because there isn't much else that can back those views other than sex differences.

    I am not trying to be sarcastic, I just think it is the age old battle. Women are less than men. God can't be less, so we refer to God with the "powerful" traits. Why do people have a problem with the feminine traits, because we have been taught for thousands of years that it would be blasphemy, and a reduction of God to a lower class of being.

    As for the defense of Marilyn, I agree with Julie. What is the point of being here. She seems fairly convinced of her positions, her knowledge, and her beliefs. Why torture herself (or the rest of us for that matter)? I mean obviously we are such ignorant people not worth our comments...right? I actually see it as a classic case of bullying, I will spat my condescending tone and superiority and up my importance. And you know what, I get it. A couple of years ago, I was Marilyn...and existed in a family of Marilyn's. I shared many of the same beliefs she has shown here, I judged people left and right, and fought the "spiritual" battles. So I am actually not a "wishy washy" spiritual person, I just have different beliefs. I have made choices to believe different based on the journey I have been on. The drive I had before was due to fear, the need to be right, the need to help my own lack of being ok with me, and where I was at. I am ok with me. I don't care what people think about me anymore, or care if I fit in "with the norm". I believe God has given me peace within, to continue my path, to learn, grow, and always be in transformation. We can be passionate, but don't need to bully.
    But I know, you see Julie and myself as doing it the other way...ahh perceptions always mess everything up.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 04:13:00 PM, Blogger Janice

    Michele, if its just a reduction to body parts then for me the discussion is inane from the very beginning and has no 'meat', no pun intended.

    I will simply refer you back to the other thread as far as genders and the mysterious nature of it all and the couple of comments that were posted about the importance of the male role in the growth and development of a human being and the idea of being created male and female in God's image - a yin and yang sort of thing, complements, neither fully representing God and neither interchangeable with the other.

    And I think I stated already why "I" think its important to not change scripture. And again, I never said anything negative about anyone calling God he, she, momma, poppa, or anything else on their own. I am not opposed to trying to explain it again, but perhaps you just didn't read my post earlier in this topic? (I'm not here to defend or argue any more than anyone else, seems like everyone is just sharing where they are and why - and I believe that's what you originally asked)

    "As for the defense of Marilyn"? What is that about? I never defended her or accused anyone of anything in this topic. I'm not sure where you are coming from there, but I'd prefer not to be put me in the middle of something I didn't choose to be in the middle of.

    And as far as bullying, no, I wouldn't say I find you that way, don't think I ever said so. And though I don't want to sit here and talk about other people, I don't see Marilyn as a bully either. And yes, perceptions are something.

    I'm not sure I've answered your question in regards the 'father' thing, so feel free to try again ore go back over the post(s) and rephrase if necessary - I'm not trying to be dense or evasive.

    Janice

     
  • At 6/15/2007 06:25:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Maybe I have perceived a defense of Marilyn, when it actually is something else. It just seemed like in this topic and the other you reacted to the rest of us and came across defending her actions...we should turn the other cheek etc.

    I agree that women and men are not interchangeable, and there is a mystery to it all for sure. However, Jesus says we are all "made in the image of God (equally)", so my point is, people seem very defensive of holding to "Father", but very easily dismiss the "feminine" qualities...it's hard for me to put into words, so sorry...but I just think holding strong to "father" does imply God as a man, and I think many still believe that (and it is predominantly taught to children before they are of age to think for themselves). Until we push to be inclusive of "feminine" descriptors as well, and embrace "the powerful God" that isn't a gender, patriarchy will continue to oppress in many instances.

    I know you are open to all of the discriptors. I am more concerned when we say "well the Bible says"...because so many times, we embrace the points that back 'our' positions, and dismiss other's views and self serving or twisted.

    As I stated before, we need to be accepting of each journey with God. Just as some say, "so what's the big deal, Jesus called God Father so should we". That is not easy for many. Unless we have been in the shoes of those with extreme disfuction, abuse etc., we should be careful in our dismissiveness of their struggle. We should encourage whatever they need to embace God that accepts and loves unconditionally.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 06:37:00 PM, Blogger marilyn

    Michele, Julie--So far, I haven't made any of this personal--I haven't discussed or criticized you to other bloggers, I haven't judged your right to free speech, I haven't insinuated that I'm better or more enlightened than you and I certainly haven't pretended I know who you are and what you're all about--I'd appreciate the same consideration. If you can't handle controversy, maybe you should think about transferring this blog to a secure network with members only. Personally, I think that would be a mistake. This reminds me of that verse in Proverbs: "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
    Debate is sometimes heated and emotional, but if we stick it out, it helps us reinforce the beliefs we're passionate about.

    If you could set aside your animosity for a couple of moments, there's something I want to say--minus the sarcasm. As I get older, I'm much more aware of what's important in my life. The things I now treasure are very different than they were twenty year ago and I've come to realize that some of the issues I used to think were absolutely vital are starting to ring hollow. As I age, I have more time to reflect on the legacy my generation has left behind; the in-your-face radical feminism, the constant striving for 'equality,' the endless scrutiny of gender bias--frankly, it's exhausting. When I'm faced with the consequences of what we've 'accomplished,' I feel this deep uneasiness that maybe in all of our energy to 'overcome' we've lost something precious; like we've squandered an inheritance we didn't know we had. I feel a heartwrenching, indefinable sense of loss when I view this generation and I wonder if the consequences of our revolution will be the ruination of it.

    Before you jump all over me for being a 'fundamentalist submissionite' that's not who I am or what I mean. I have no argument with the problems of patriarchy.
    Over-control equals rebellion, and women needed to rebel, I just wonder if maybe we got lost somewhere along the way; if what we have now is really what we wanted.
    In my own caustic, antagonistic way I guess I was pointing out that we've carried our sense of entitlement all the way to God, and instead of thanking him for making us in his image, we've tried to make him into ours.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 07:49:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    So does God have facial hair? Does God watch football? Does God have an affinity for power tools? Does God wear jeans and flannel? Does God communicate with sharp head nods, grunts, and infantile jokes?

    I hope so, because if God is assigned a male gender, as some wish to do, I want my God to be a manly man God. No wuss God for me.

    Sometimes, the obvious gets lost in the shuffle, so I'm happy to help out by pointing it out.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 08:02:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Medium Guy, you're trouble, such trouble!

    I know a feminist author (Barbara Katz Rothman) who universally uses the term "mothering" to apply to the nurturing parenting style typically associated with mothers. Rather than balk at the stereotypes and associations, she creatively uses them. So in her conceptualization, fathers can be said to engage in mothering.

    So when we talk about father God and mother God, yes we are appealing to stereotypes, cultural associations and mysteries, but so what? I think the point is to be self-aware. Language is limited; that's why we need a variety of imperfect metaphors to hint at Divine Being.

    Marilyn, I agree that our culture has made some wrong turns in the way so-called feminism has progressed. Instead of women becoming equal with men, able to contribuate fully to society with our whole selves, we are still trying to be the same as men -- and losing. Instead of transforming society into a more loving, compassionate, community-oriented culture, we've seen an increase in girl fighting and meanness. Instead of making it acceptable for women and men to be authentic and to manifest all our gifts in the way we decide in co-equal relationship with one another in our marriages and families, we've allowed feminism and capitalism to merge in such a way that in most families BOTH parents have to work long hours to support the kids, and in some cases an overly materialistic lifestyle.

    A true feminist revolution would invite men and women to learn from one another and work collaboratively for the improvement of families, communities, culture and the overcoming of global poverty, oppression and violence.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 09:01:00 PM, Blogger marilyn

    Hey Medium guy,
    If you don't want to get called out for using sarcasm on this forum you're only allowed to use it against
    non-emergents--just thought you'd want to know.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 09:29:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Hee hee hee,

    Actually, Marilyn, the substantive implications of my posts have apparently been lost on you, as have the insightful perspectives on commonality shared by Jemila, but that's not why you're here anyway.

    If I were to have an ulterior motive in addressing your posts, it would be to find a way to anger you so much that you would conduct some research and arrive at the same conclusions I have. But I don't maintain any sense of superiority and simply want to stimulate iron-sharpening debate, because I know I'm right and you're wrong.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 10:23:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Yeesh.

    Marilyn, Jemila...I agree that when the sexism pendulum swung in the 60's-70's it went so far that it created as much trouble as it did gain. This is not specific to women, either. The blessings and curses seem apparent to those of us who have been present for the whole course but I think many younger women and men also feel the effects, even if they have not been witness to how this has all unfolded. I'd blather on about what I think the positives and negatives have been but am just plain too tired at the moment.
    Please feel free...any of you...to outline what these might be.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 10:38:00 PM, Blogger marilyn

    Medium Guy,
    What a great idea! Give it a go.

     
  • At 6/15/2007 11:16:00 PM, Blogger marilyn

    Jemila, thanks--I'll check that out.

    I'd also like to hear how you would answer Nancy's request.

    I'm not really up for this stuff tonite--I think I need to go play some Bach...or something.

    G'nite.

     
  • At 6/16/2007 01:46:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Marilyn,

    To be honest your last post to me was a very different tone. I actually could read it and it actually appeared more as dialog. Maybe it's because this all happens in writing, and we don't know each other personally, but I want you to know...I can handle controversy and differing opinions. It just seemed like from the beginning, not just this strand, that your motives here were not to dialog or learn. It has appeared as if you just had a bone to pick with ignorant, "new agey people". If I misunderstood that I am sorry. That is what I perceived.
    While I do think feminism can "go to far", I don't think that it will ruin it for us. Something I feel at this point is that each generation comes along and there are always "serious" issues. We think "this world is going to hell in a hand basket". Then it gets worked out, altered, changed etc, and we're on to the next. It's and ebb and flow; maybe a few steps forward and a few steps back.
    We are very imperfect creatures with a vast array of visions, opinions, experiences, life status' etc. We do the best with what we know. BUT we evolve, and mistakes or misjudgments occur in the process.

    Past generations thought many topics went too far in many areas, but many of us now would feel, "Thank God" for those who fought.
    In terms of women, "feminism" has always been a threat, each step of the way it has been a deep concern. While yes we have had down sides, I think other things have balanced out more. Nothing is perfect. I thank God for the women who fought for their voices. I thank God that I have the choices I do, the rights that I do. While still not perfect, some things have come a long way. I only hope that they are even further for my daughter.

     
  • At 6/16/2007 01:56:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Oh, forgot one more thing. While I agree that God has been made into "our" image, that goes both ways. I believe that is exactly what happened within patriarchy. Men dominated, and God became "dominant man". That is my point, we as humans do tend to project our understanding on God. Men wrote the Bible. While I believe in "inspiration" (though in a different definition), men wrote it, and therefore, their concepts and ideas probably influenced their writing. (My opinion, as I do not believe inspiration meant-dictation)

     
  • At 6/16/2007 04:20:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I don't think the problem is that feminism went too far -- I think the problem is feminism didn't go far enough. In other words, we've tried to fight for equality in a man's world, rather than making the world a more equal place, where values and priorities are defined co-equally by women and men; where the workplace and the ethics of the economy were SHAPED more by "female" priorities and values, which are ultimately human virtues that are simply undercultivated in societies dominated by men, or women trying to dominate in the same way as men.

    Our economy needs old-fashioned "male" values like honor, and "female" values like putting human wellbeing and relationships before the "bottom line."

    These are only the beginning of my thoughts on this issue, but it's five am and my baby just fell back asleep, so I'm going to try to join her!

     
  • At 6/16/2007 07:04:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Good morning, all. After I post this, I'm heading out of town for the day and night. Literally, I am off to the races.

    In some ways, feminism seems to have not gone far enough, this is true. But I was thinking more about the actual consequences of the changes that DID occur as a result of feminism. For example, women have more options now...you can have a career, choose to stay at home as a mother and housewife, you can have a career in more fields than nursing and teaching (although both are wonderful career options for those gifted and passionate in these areas). Certainly, this is all positive. However, it seems, at least for many women I know, that the end result has been MORE responsiblity and pressure for women, especially working mothers. They work full time, take care of the needs of the family, clean the house, pay the bills, mow the lawn, do the laundry, etc and feel stimulated and challenged but also tired and stressed out and resentful. Of course, this is not true for all working women but I've seen so much of this. And also heard the frustration and disappointment when they realize "having it all" is not what it was cracked up to be. Personally, I was ill-prepared for the agony I would feel when I first tried to balance work and my first-born child. I was in no situation not to work. I had not expected to long so badly to stay home with my son. It was awful. I thought as a "liberated woman", I'd handle it...I always expected I would. This was a terrible shock for me and had I known, I would have planned my life differently.

    I think men, at least of my generation, have experienced a good deal of confusion regarding their own roles as a result of the social change coming from women's lib. The positive result of feminism has been they too have more "choices". The downside has been some apparent confusion as to what is expected of them, especially emotionally, in their relationships and position in the family. They have also felt the impact of the influx of women into the workforce, with job availability being more of an issue and changes in pay scales.

    One sad fact, is that professions such as my own, have seen a decline in earning potential as the profession has become "feminized"...as more women are drawn to certain professions, the pay declines. So, we have more career options but potentially at less pay than before becuase it is now associated with being "women's work".

    If we didn't have such a long way to go, topics like gender and women's issues would not be so hot. I appreciate the attempts to explore and discuss all this with each of you. Each one of you brings your own experiences and knowledge base and opinions to this conversation and I hope we can continue to work towards true, respectful sharing of these with one another. Thanks to each of you for bringing your best to this discussion.

    Enjoy your day and peace to each of you.

     
  • At 6/16/2007 09:15:00 AM, Blogger Linda

    While I agree that God is neither male nor female, I am saddened that the beautiful image of Father has been distorted so often by sinful human beings. Mother can be equally tainted as a result of sin. So where does that leave us?

    My thought is that those who have distorted views of the terms used for God (whether they be male or female) be re-educated to understand what they ought to mean in the world that God intended before relationships became broken and distorted. We are the ones who have distorted the beauty of the words and titles used to refer to God. We should do our best to restore their beauty and meaning.

     
  • At 6/16/2007 04:45:00 PM, Blogger marilyn

    Thanks Michele, I appreciated your words, and perhaps if I'd explained where I'm coming from, you might have understood my vehement protestations. Out of respect to those of you who have treated me kindly, I will attempt to do so now. This will be my last post for awhile as I am also going away. (to the relief of many of you) I will not be here for quite some time to read your questions, criticisms or responses--I apologize for that.

    The emerging women website crossed my path from a link at another very different site. Cari's article was the first one posted and it alarmed me for many reasons; I have some very close ties to the university here and to several non-profit youth organizations. The stories I hear from kids whose lives have literally been destroyed by alternative sexuality have caused me both anguish and outrage; anguish for the consequences they will carry forever, and outrage at the wilfull ignorance of our reckless, permissive society. The reason I encouraged you people to reasearch on your own is because much of the information is graphic and possibly inappropriate, but to give you some idea; I know two boys in their twenties who wear diapers and a third with a colostomy; I know another boy who has permanent damage from steroid/homone abuse, and the list goes on. I hope this clarifies the source and scope of my anger. In truth, it was not directed at anyone of you personally. I love these kids, and it's distressing enough to have a society that promotes and even encourages an alternative lifestyle, but when Christians start to view it as 'normal' I just want to scream. I hope this clarifies things a bit.

    My critical view of the 'emerging conversation' is based on my own experience as well. (and thank you Janice for not retaliating when I lashed out at you) I won't share that story now; however, I have taken the time to do my own research. I've read Brian Mclaren, Peter Rollins, Brennan Manning, Eugene Peterson and have friends and family who attend emerging 'churches,' so I know a little bit about it. There was a time when I questioned my faith and I had to go back to the beginning and discover what I really believed. It was a desperate search for God that led me to read the aforementioned authors plus many others. I credit Francis Schaeffer for leading me out of my darkness and for fueling my passion for God's word; 'The God Who is There' is just as relevent to postmodern philosophy as it was to modernist thought, and 'True Spirituality' is very dear to my heart. C.S. Lewis has always inspired me and the corresponence of Murray McShane is a testimony of great character and obedient sacrifice. I 'emerged' into a deeper faith, and a renewed reverance for the word of God--I have no doubts about it's truth, it's authenticity and it's power. I do have many doubts about the influence of the emerging church, as it has negatively impacted many of those I love.

    Julie, you were wondering what I was doing here. I'm not sure why that matters, but I guess it was to defend the Christ I know and the gospel I love, and to be a voice for the kids this society chooses to ignore. Wether the 'emerging church' chooses to believe it or not, we will ultimately be held accountable to God for those we influence wrongly or lead astray. I hope more people show up here to challenge your views and ideas.

    medium guy--I was going to leave you with a brief line asking if you minded if I call you Sarah; I'm not really sure if you're a man or a woman, and I've had some really negative experiences with medium guys, so although you've repeatedly told us your name and gender, I'd feel more comforable if I thought of you as a woman named Sarah;even though I couldn't resist starting off that way, I have to confess that you were on my mind last night. (I've quite enjoyed playing 'deliberately obtuse' to your 'deliberately obnoxious.') At your first posting, the bitter tone sounded like it came from an older person, but as the conversation wore on, your dry humour sounded suspiciously like one of my own sons. So, at two o-clock this morning I prayed for you and when I still couldn't sleep, I sat down and finally read your profile. (I usually don't read the profiles unless I've posted one myself--if I'm being critical, it's not really fair.) If you told the truth, you are exactly the age of my middle son, which makes it pretty hard for me to judge you in any way, much less dislike you. It also made me wonder what a young guy like you is doing on a website designed for women? I will probably never know your story; however, I'm not likely to forget you, and I intend to pray for you wether you like ot or not. Life is just beginning for you, and even though you have the confidence of youth, it's not very probable you'll have the same belief system in twenty years. So seeing as I won't be around to read your hilarious persecutions--you have the opportunity to craft an unchallenged dissertation on how completely and utterly wrong I am.

    Nancy and Jemila, I appreciated your input, and I would have liked to continue this vein of thought-- maybe we can back to it sometime.
    Adieu

     
  • At 6/16/2007 07:40:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Hello Marilyn,

    I looked for an email address on your blog and couldn't find one, so here is my response to your post. You may never actually read this if the next time you visit it's been long archived, but I leave it in God's hands. I hope you have or have had a good journey.

    I'll start by mentioning that contrary to my strongest intention :), I couldn't help but pray for you as well last night. In a strange way you have challenged me in the areas of spiritual self-discipline and patience, and I too actually had come to "settle in" and enjoy our parte and reparte dynamic; however I had just arrived at a sense of peace at not furthering it in this forum because I wished to be sensitive to all the other participants and readers.

    I was indeed honest on my profile - I can't even remember what's on it now, but despite your desire to call me Sarah, I am a 33 year-old man [I have been told by my wife that I have a strong feminine side - we have 3 children]. If you don't believe me, ask my urologist who just recently performed a procedure upon me.

    The etiology of the nature of my posts which were made in response to yours is multifaceted. First, though Julie and company need no bodyguard, I have come to in a way feel very "protective," [kind of like Jesus' mother hen analogy] as it were, of the environment I've encountered here, which was originally pointed out to me by my wife. I would never have had the gumption to participate in any conversation here had it not been for Julie and others repeatedly inviting and affirming the involvement of males as well. Frankly, I have found the issues discussed here fascinating and engaging, and on a personal level the emerging conversation has become to me my first true spiritual home for many reasons. So, I felt led to respond to some of your earliest posts in a way that I intended to hold up a mirror so that you would have an opportunity for self-reflection, and I really hoped that I could contribute to what I perceived as an effort to welcome you and your ideas but give feedback that your style was actually beyond stirring the pot into the realm of harmful.

    I'm grateful that you shared your thoughts with me and this allowed me to provide reciprocity in my own way.

    I am humbled at your stated intention to pray for me, and I will certainly pray for you. Perhaps we've entered into some kind of blog relationship where we hold an olive branch in one hand and a boxing glove in the other.

    Looking forward to the evolution of the next round,

    Medium Guy

     
  • At 6/16/2007 09:47:00 PM, Blogger marilyn

    medium guy--I have 2 minutes before I walk out the door and I wanted you to know I read your post. I'm not sure where I got the age thing--for some reason I thought it said you were 25. At 2 in the morning without my eyes, it's amazing I got the name right! Regardless of that, it allowed me to view you in a different way. God often speaks to me at night, and I've learned to be sensitive to him even when I don't feel like it. Last night he just wouldn't let me ignore him. I hate to admit it but I'm grateful for his celestial nagging.

    Thank you for explaining yourself.
    Interestingly enough, the son I compared you to also has a strong feminine side, a gift for the obvious, and a protective nature.

    I really have to go, thanks again.

     
  • At 6/18/2007 12:21:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Medium Guy!

    I love ya! I always like your posts. I know that they can be feisty, but I like ya! I am glad you join us here. Keep it coming.

     
  • At 6/18/2007 12:18:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Thanks Michele - that really means a lot to me, and the feeling's mutual!

    Blessings!

     
  • At 6/19/2007 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    I must apologize for dropping out of the conversation, I was away for the past few days. I don't have time to address all the things thrown at me here nor do I really want to drag them out again.

    Two things I think I need to comment on -

    Why do I refer to reducing God to "penis" which has angered some here? I have no problem with the concept of Father. I do have a serious problem with people who only use that image to describe God. That enforces a solely male conception of God. Si many people fear the balance of feminine terms for God because they think it sexualizes God (the age old, women are just sex objects). I am trying to demonstrate that to insist upon solely male images for god does the same thing. The point is to move to a holistic conception of God, not just rely one a warped image with a lot of baggage just because its what your subgroup is used to.

    and. I'm sorry but I will not grow out of caring about justice issues. I will not give up seeking equal rights for women because I am tired or lazy or too busy. To stop caring about just things does not means that old age brings maturity so much as it demonstrates that with old ages age the danger for apathy increases.

     
  • At 6/19/2007 06:56:00 PM, Blogger Candace

    I once again find myself compelled to (respectfully) offer up my feelings on a very personal subject...I appreciate the thoughts presented in the Emerging Women blog and am always reading along on the sidelines, but every now and then I just need to jump in!

    Michele's original query was simply put: has "anyone's position evolved even more than before" (from a previous discussion) - offering up the writings she had found in her own quest for understanding. Yes, Michele, after the discussion a few weeks back, I found myself more confused than ever...not really wanting to eliminate "HE" and not really wanting to use "SHE" - and no, I do not vote as an independent (in case you were wondering)!

    And so it is with my idea of calling God "HE." To me, God is God...God is Love...does the rest really matter?

    I often ask myself: is it really my calling to persuade another to think and act like me? Are we then not committing to some of the ideals the emerging church is trying to seperate themselves from? Again, yes, the patriarchy in our "patterns of worship" is extremely evident, but it is also a tradition, and even more so, a habit...we have the personal choice to either go along with it or simply say "it's not for me..." and walk away (or at least sit quietly, screaming on the inside!). I feel that our personal differences and the dialogue that follows are what keep each one of us evolving...it keeps us asking the questions although we don't understand the answers.

    Maybe there is a better way to deal with the patriarchial traditions...maybe asking ourselves to choose between HE, SHE, or equal use of both is limiting in itself. There are so many things in the bible and the word of God that are outdated when applied to our society today, but is it worth our while to debate on what to do about it..why was it done, etc, etc - or rather, make the choice to go down a different path and follow in the way of Jesus (even if he uses the pronoun HE and addresses God as FATHER)...I choose the path - I don't feel the HE/SHE, patriarchial debate will ever be solved except in our own personal journey.

    I came across a beautiful philosophy that I hold close to my heart: One comes closer to God through the questions she asks God; therein lies true dialogue; we ask and God replies...

    PS - Oh...my two cents on this particular thread - it is too bad that the first comment had to set such a negative tone for many of the ensuing comments - RESPECTFUL DISAGREEMENT is a skill that I personally hold in high regard!

     

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